Movie Review | "The Avengers"
Avengers assemble for a fantastic superhero romp.
We've been building to this for some time.
The first, nascent hint of an Avengers movie appeared in 2008's Iron Man. Since then, we've been introduced to the principals, and given tantalizing glimpses of what might come, in Thor, Captain America and the Iron Man sequel.
The Avengers easily lives up to (and even exceeds) the expectations set in those films.
With such an ensemble piece, my principle concern going in was that the film would be unfocused and wandering. There was a substantial risk that some heroes would be completely ignored or that their subplots would congeal into an incomprehensible mess.
The film, though, turns its potential fatal flaw into its biggest success. The interplay between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Christopher Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is masterfully played. They have strong personalities, and they often oppose each other fiercely.
Director Josh Wheden pulls double duty here (he wrote and directed the film), and does so admirably. He takes action scenes that could have been incoherent, and makes them clean, clear and stirring. The dialogue is honestly funny — the characters express themselves with wit and feeling.
Robert Downey Jr. once again proves that Iron Man is a wonderful combination of role and actor — it's almost hard to tell where Downey ends and billionaire Tony Stark begins. He's the clear star of the group: hyper-articulate, witty and generally about five steps ahead of anyone else.
Mark Ruffalo is the surprise here, though. He injects life into the Bruce Banner/Hulk role, which has flopped twice on the big screen (once with Eric Bana, and again with Edward Norton). Ruffalo's portrayal of a genius struggling with endless rage is the first time the character's been really interesting.
Less attention is paid to Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, but she puts in her usual excellent performance in limited screentime. She's extremely competent and struggles with problems of her own — by no means the "damsel in distress" role that can pop up in this genre.
I can't go into all the performances here, but there's no weak link, which is amazing in a cast of this size. In fact, the only real problem of the film is that the villains — Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an alien army — don't always live up to the heroes. Hiddleston gives a strong performance, but he's clearly no match for a team of superpowered beings. His army is rather undeveloped — the movie doesn't really go into their motivations.
Nonetheless, The Avengers is about as well-done as a summer movie can be. It's action-packed, charming and well-balanced. It will be fun to see what they do with this team next.